Lessons from a Full Body Reboot: 7 Weeks Without Caffeine (or Alcohol)
It all started when we agreed to ‘house sit’ a permaculture farm. Two city girls living off-the-grid for a month, what could possibly go wrong? Well, nothing, as it turned out. We stepped up to the task with (relative) ease.
So how on earth did that lead to a full body reboot? Especially when we were living in plant-based paradise? In a nutshell, we didn’t anticipate how stressful it would be to leave our comfort zone.
We basically over-indulged to take our mind off things. A bottle of red wine every evening became par for our off-the-grid course. Jugs of coffee coaxed us awake the following morning and piles of peanut butter toast kept us going. And then there were the Oreos.
OPERATION FULL BODY REBOOT
We left the farm tanned and exhilarated. We didn’t just survive our adventure, we kicked some serious permaculture butt. There was, however, the not so small issue of our chunkier physiques.
When we came across 30 Ways to Reboot Your Body by Ben Greenfield a week later (coincidence?), we decided to go all in. How hard could it be to go 12 weeks without bread, coffee and wine? I don’t know, but seven weeks (how long we lasted) was barely doable.
WHAT DOES REBOOTING YOUR BODY ENTAIL?
Staggered in three 12-week stages, phase one of the reboot is pretty much an elimination diet on steroids. However, rather than removing only the potential problem foods from your diet, Ben has you get rid of pretty much everything fun.
Caffeine, alcohol, gluten, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, sugar and processed food are all relegated to the ‘do not eat’ list. Onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and eggplant are also ousted. Fruit is allowed, albeit sparingly.
If you’re fully vegan (like we are), you’re essentially left with vegetables, coconut, olive oil and avocados. You’d be surprised how inventive you can be when that’s all you have to work with. For the omnivorous among you, life isn’t quite as bleak. You’re still not allowed coffee, though.
WHY DO THIS TO YOURSELF?
Rebooting your body Greenfield style takes deprivation to new heights, but the payoff is huge. From the obvious (weight loss) to the unexpected (disappearance of long-standing ailments), the benefits far outweigh the lack of caffeine and wine o’clock.
We only managed to do the first phase for seven weeks before life happened and we returned to our old ways. Yet, in spite of this we still enjoyed significant results.
We shed a few pounds (it’s impossible not to) and discovered it’s true what they say: nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. Not even Oreos.
We felt incredible. Thanks to green tea, our detox symptoms were almost non-existent. Aside from a few sluggish days and the odd pounding head, we felt an improvement within two weeks.
Those benefits are obvious, so let’s skip to the juicy stuff.
- Sayonara menopause. The hot flushes, skin sensitivity, poor sleep, frequent headaches and afternoon energy dips. All gone.
- We’re more in tune with our bodies. What to eat and when to eat it has become almost instinctual for us. Our taste buds no longer have the final say.
- The insatiable desire to snack on, well, everything really, has left. We still enjoy chocolate (obvs), but these days we’re like the poster children for moderation. No, really.
- Exercise is fun again. My partner Saskia had a breathing issue that made running almost impossible. Post-reboot her pace increased by two and a half minutes per kilometer.
- I started swimming again after avoiding the sport for at least a decade. I feel strong in the water and I can go for longer between breaks. (Before I’d be gasping for air after one length.)
- Coffee wakes you up, tea slows you down (in a good way). Nothing gets me out of better faster than the promise of caffeine. But when green tea is your only vice you learn to savor the experience, as opposed to just the beverage.
- Eliminating coffee allowed us to embrace the art of slow living instead of rushing from one thing to the next. We learnt to be in the moment.
WHAT’S THE POINT OF A FULL BODY REBOOT?
It’s unlikely we’ll ever quit coffee, red wine or carbs for good (else what’s the point, right?), but we’ve definitely seen value in stopping them for a while.
The human body is an amazing machine, but most of us don’t treat it with the care and respect it deserves. We shovel all manner of junk down our throats and then we’re offended when we get sick.
By taking regular breaks from your usual way of eating, you give your body a chance to rest and recuperate. Also, when you do finally have that first cup of coffee after a period of abstinence, damn it tastes good.